Cycling in the Eastern Algarve

It is mid-May and I am in my favorite holiday country at the Eastern Algarve in Portugal. In a dreamy fishing village called Santa Luzia, just past the Spanish border, I spend two weeks in the preseason, ten days on a rented mountain bike.

Quite consciously, I went with my partner for the second time exceptionally in this restful nest. Nowhere are people in southern Europe more relaxed than in Portugal. We never drank better coffee than on the Portuguese islands like Madeira, the Azores or in the middle of the capital in Lisbon. The traffic here is not so heated, there is much less hustle and bustle than in Spain, the mass tourism romps only a hundred kilometers further west in the Algarve.

They still exist here, the good old days that somehow slow down under the sun in Southern Europe: relaxed people, rusty cars, cheap rental bikes, tiny little mom and pop shops, cold beer served for 1,30 Euro right at the jetty In the sunset, only real estate prices have shamelessly exploded. A reason for northern Europeans to switch at least two gears down. Or stay right here for the rest of your life. A bicycle and an old fisherman's hut would be enough ...?


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Eastern Algarve by mountain bike

Studded tires for the slopes of the Eastern Algarve

Due to the never-ending, gray winter 2016 / 17 in Germany, we long for light. After sandy beach. After scent of fresh fish. After sunscreen, whose smell puts us back in the carefree childhood and of course after bicycles, with which we here in the middle in the nature reserve still real freedom on two wheels far away from the German rush hour experience. After the obligatory acclimatization we lend ourselves after a quick march with a lot of sweat Tavira Two mountain bikes at the last minute before lunch. Lunch break in Portugal means: wait three hours.

Our rental bikes in front of the shop in Tavira

Borrowed MTB's in front of the bikes in Tavira

The original bike shop with really good MTB's of 2013 I have found again, but unfortunately he has closed forever. A larger provider has taken over the small business in Tavira. The owner's daughter proudly tells us about the very good reviews on the net. Direct marketing in Tavira. The bikes are for each fair nine euros a day including helmet, lock and repair kit - absolutely ok. A helmet requirement exists in Portugal, unlike Spain outside the villages yet. We cycle back to Santa Luzia in a few minutes.

Ecovia do Litoral - bike path in Portugal

Ecovia do Litoral - our bike path in Portugal

The return trip ends in the stairwell of our apartment, because somehow we can not take the wheels for space reasons in our apartment - it is easy to install over two floors. Our British neighbor shows understanding for the situation. We want the mountain bikes Ecovia do Litoral traveled. A bike path in the nature reserve, located at the Eastern Algarve from the Spanish border across the Algarve to the southwesternmost point of Europe and then head north (Download GPX track). The existing since 2008 bike route is not paved throughout, but rather suitable for MTBs with suspension fork and cross tires.

By mountain bike on the Ecovia do Litoral

The route of the Ecovia is very suitable for mountain bikes

When cycling on the coast MTB's are exactly my thing, especially since I can cycle with it on the beach. There are hilly climbs, rocky slopes, wet fords, sand, gravel, rocks and lots of dust. Who wants, can behind Moncarapacho go by bike in the mountains. However, we have noticed that biking over dirt tracks in southern Portugal is exhausting even in the early part of the season. Every day you have to go in the morning cream thoroughly before cycling. A bright or silver helmet helps to endure the sun better. A padded wheel (under) pants is of great benefit. Enough water, say 1,5 liters should be here for every cyclist.

Bike ride from Santa Luzia to Fuseta and Moncarapacho

An attractive destination for cyclists Fuseta over the endless lagoons of the Ria Formosa, in the form of fine sand dream beaches along the whole Eastern Algarve. From Fusetas quay boat tours are offered on the Armona Island or to the dolphins, whales and flying fish further in the Atlantic. The house beach "Praia da Fuseta Ria" is still beautiful despite the noticeable tourism. Especially if you came by bike from the secluded nature reserve, the beach with a sea view offers a great change. Fuseta is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, surfing or just for a lunch break under the umbrella. Numerous, ancient wooden fishing boats are located on the quay, this colorful sight alone is worth a bike ride.

Excursion boat in Fuseta on our bike tour Refreshments for cyclists in Fuseta

A GPS on the smartphone helps us Bike tour through the nature reserve Ria Formosa

The town was first documented historically as "Fozeta", probably older than its predecessors, and is a fisherman's favorite for seasonal fishing. Following a territorial reform of 1572, today the municipality "Moncarapacho e Fuseta" is formed. Fuseta has been home to one of the oldest train stations in the Algarve since 2013. The bike transport in the train is by the way no problem and here at the Eastern Algarve even for free (without guarantee). However, the unloading from the sometimes high cars on heavy bikes requires a helper. So you can also travel comfortably by train and cycle back from Fuseta on the bike path Ecovia do Litoral.

After Moncarapacho it goes directly from here over the long, straight road M516-2 in about 25 minutes by bike. My driven route Santa Luzia - Fuseta Moncarapacho - Fuseta- Santa Luzia was scant by bike on the Ecovia do Litoral 40 kilometers. A GPS card on the handlebar is quite usefulThere are many turns off the slopes. Note: In the sun, the black smartphone heats up pretty strong, through the sunglasses you can also hardly recognize the hopelessly overexposed screen. Nevertheless, it is much more helpful on the handlebar than a map or GPS in a backpack. I like to ride on difficult passages with the App Komoot on my old smartphone. Even on southern French sand tracks in the reed Nirvana she knew the way exactly. Unless I forgot to save the map offline ...

Open the Fuseta -Moncarapacho map in Google Maps

Bike ride to Cacelha Vela

If you cycle the Ecovia do Litoral from Santa Luzia or Tavira eastwards towards the Spanish border, past green golf courses with hosts of gardeners on golfers, the possibility of an incredibly idyllic, old musem village with the name Cacela Velha to visit. The former pirate's nest from the Middle Ages consists only of a fortress-like elevation with church, cobblestones, a couple of houses and about 50 inhabitants. Even for Wikipedia that is too small - or still an insider tip? The beautiful View over the lagoon to the Spanish border Compensates the bike tourists in any case for all the torments of the journey. By bike you can go up to the church, cars must be parked at the bottom of the parking lot.

Bike ride to Cacela VelhaPassion flower in the Algarve

Native plant in the Eastern AlgarveThe bike path Ecovia do Litoral leads over a crooked bridge at Tavira

Tip: For a perfect snack right on the water On the way back to Tavira, you can turn left into R. de Fábrica, down to the sea. After a few meters downhill, the view opens onto a beautiful spot for a shady break at the sea. Back to Tavira by bike about 10 kilometers, back to Santa Luzia about 15 kilometers.

Open R. de Fábrica Map in Google Maps
Open the map of the cycling trip to Cacelha Vela in Google Maps

Bike ride to Ilha de Tavira

The ancient city Tavira probably comes from the 4. Century before a Greek settlement. After the founding or multiple occupation by the Phoenicians (or Carthaginians) were replaced by the Romans and later by the Moors, until today a pretty town, that lived after plague and volcanic eruption to 1920 mostly from tuna fishing. The mighty swarms have stupidly relocated their catchment area, and eventually the sardines disappeared due to overfishing. Today Tavira thrives on tourism, but preserves its old charm from several cultures.

It's Saturday lunchtime and we stroll through a big, colorful market with cheap clothes and mountains of colorful plastic goods. A stork family nests on a tall red-brick industrial fireplace. Old gentlemen come with their age-old mopeds from the 60er years drove with trailer to the market. On the oiled engines German Zündapp logos. Restaurants fuel their outdoor barbecues wildly-smoking at the weekend. It smells intensely of grilled meat on the main road. Numerous shops, restaurants, cafes share the 27.000 inhabitants large place with a ruined castle, winding lanes, a river with a Roman bridge and the Island of Tavira, The latter island is by a ferry from quay Quatro Águas approached. A campsite helps the beautiful island to numerous visitors. The shadowless sandy beach offers according to travel guide also in the summer a lot of space.

Bike ride to Ilha de Tavira

Lonely beach with bicycles opposite the Ilha de Tavira

Portuguese M70 moped with German Zündapp engine in Tavira

Sunset Santa Luzia

I could not resist trying the first courses of the mountain bike with the wide tires here on the beach of Praia dos Tesos in the hard sand. A real off-road fun without exhaust fumes! We stayed with our bikes on the mainland and drove on the deserted beach to the hotel and then on the modern expressway bridge back to Santa Luzia. The tour was only some 18 kilometers long with some dodges in Tavira, but felt physically at least twice as far in the midday sun. Four years ago we took the train in the morning Olhão driven by bike and the well 20 piste kilometers back. After that, I swore to myself never again without cycling shorts to drive on borrowed wheels offroad. In this holiday, a small, unergonomic retrofit saddle is mounted on my actually good bike, presumably because the original saddle including saddle tube was stolen once - quick release thank you. But now I have to put up my padded cycling pants for the board-heavy plastic stalls. You never stop learning!

To the city of Lighthouse with the main airport for the whole Algarve, it is only about nine kilometers by bike from Olhão, or ten kilometers by train. However, you still need energy to see the 50.000 inhabitants large university city with the two universities. Anyone who lends a bike right after arriving in Faro can return the bike here before returning home and take a leisurely look at the highlights of Faro. In addition to a maritime museum, there is a baroque church and an ethnographic museum. The city is not necessarily a pure gem, according to the guide, but very interesting because of their age. You almost only meet tourists here at the airport.

Open Praia dos Tesos in Google Maps
Open the map of the bike tour to Ilha de Tavira in Google Maps

All Eastern Algarve cycling tours on a map

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Open Ostalgarve cycling tour in Google Maps

Tips for the Eastern Algarve by bike

  • The bike path Ecovia do Litoral in the Algarve is 214 kilometers long and leads to Sagres. A GPS helps with orientation
  • The Ecovia occupies the section no. 1 of the Algarve Cycle route network Eurovelowhich runs to the North Cape in Scandinavia
  • The Algarve is at least from Albufeira in the west very touristy. The east side is more attractive to nature lovers
  • Through the archipelago of the huge lagoon "Ria Formosa" the great feeling of having two beaches in front or behind is created
  • For the Ecovia mountain bikes with suspension fork and cross tires are best. With normal bicycles, it is also (take along kit)
  • Incidentally, the number of electric bikes is also increasing dramatically in the Algarve: they inevitably require a socket on the pitch ...
  • The intensity of sunshine is extreme even in the preseason. Therefore locals always wear headgear
  • The season often ends with a still warm pre-Christmas period. At the beginning of the New Year it is often cold and rainy

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